Like sailors, I don’t believe in luck. But I do believe in bad weather reports. When dark clouds are on the horizon and you’re miles from shore, it’s no time to panic. That’s when you plan.
Today, the news coming out of the business world is uncertain at best. CNBC recently reported that the odds of the U.S. economy falling into a recession in 2023 are more than 50%. So what can you do to keep yourself from sailing into a storm? And, how do you keep from tipping over if you end up in one?
Put away expectations of quick gains; this is the period for long-term planning. Here’s how I prepare as a three-time tech founder and CEO used to weathering storms and building resilient organizations along the way.
WELCOME BACK, COST-EFFICIENCY
When you’re facing limited supplies, you decide what is most important. You conserve and compress. You take control of your environment.
My recommendation for the route ahead? Business leaders should focus on what they control, and cost/spend is one of these areas.
As prices increase, begin bootstrapping again. Challenge your employees to be purposeful with their work while looking for efficiencies within the organization, ensuring you maximize resources. At Contentstack, for example, instead of a lavish dinner for our quarterly business review, we’re bringing a taco truck and a DJ to our new office space in Austin. Conserve the money; preserve the spirit and fun.
Look around. What can you cut back? Follow a steady mindset of spending wisely instead of gunning for “growth at all costs.”
When the job market first got tough, we looked for talent in unexpected places and focused on transferable skills vs. specific experience. That’s how we ended up with an accountant-turned-Contentstack engineer, who taught himself to code as a hobby, and a third-grade teacher running our global training, development, and social good programs.
My downturn hiring takeaway? Look everywhere and be ready to be surprised by anyone.
Here’s another one: It’s tempting in a period where quick wins are needed to hire talent that can make those gains happen now. But sometimes that talent comes with higher expectations. You have to weigh the cost of those expectations with the ROI and long-term sustainability of the hire.
Downturns are also an opportunity to leverage and support the talent on hand. How do you utilize talent in new ways? Could they fill holes in a way that doesn’t stretch them thin but instead shares their knowledge and expertise with others? Continue to invest and focus on enablement and professional development, ensuring your teams have the tools they need to succeed.
And hyper-focus on culture. I’m not talking about the quick gains that may sparkle and fizzle—like happy hours and unlimited PTO that isn’t reinforced. Focus on long-term solutions that build community, care, flexibility, and fun.
USE TECH TO UNLOCK PEOPLE, SPEED, AND RELATIONSHIPS
Companies will continue to invest in digital during the downturn but will look for ways to gain better return on investment and total cost of ownership. In our industry, we call it the “free puppy” effect. A puppy is cute and even cuter when you think it is “free.” But there’s no such thing as a free puppy. You have to consider the time and resources needed to raise and care for it.
It’s the same with tech. There’s the cost of acquisition, which can be licensing, and the cost of ownership, which takes into account all the talent and resources needed to reach the tech’s potential. Focus on lowering the cost of ownership, increasing ROI, and using tech to enable people, speed, and customer relationships.
Tech can empower teams to do things bigger and better. Without people, innovation doesn’t happen. Tech can also make processes repeatable. Repeatable processes can unlock scale; you can’t grow at a good pace if you don’t remove barriers to speed.
Tech also allows brands to personalize customer experiences and become welcome additions to their lives. It’s recommendations, surprising and delighting, solutions, and more. For example, Grammarly’s version of personalization includes sending users weekly reports of their writing progress and how they compare to other users. The Miami Heat excels at personalization when fans are inside their arena, targeting them with mobile retail offers and more that achieve high conversion rates.
Like Ted Lasso said, “All people are different people.” Technology can help brands respond to that. During a downturn, you’ll need relationships more than ever. Anything that blows you away from that course is probably not valuable.
As you sail into the storm, be ready to go back to basics. Remember your training, depend on your experience, and understand that no matter what, there’s always a blue sky waiting on the other side. Moving from quick gains to long-term planning will define how you reap the rewards after the weather.
Neha Sampat is the CEO of Contentstack and Founder of Built.io | SF Business Times 40 Under 40 | 50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley